Capone, screenwriter and director Josh Trank’s look at the notorious gangster’s final years, out this week on video on demand, is a hallucinatory trip deep into the mind of Al Capone, and an even deeper, even more hallucinatory trip into the mind of Tom Hardy, whose gonzo scene-chewing is the film’s great pleasure. Capone is about guilt and dementia much more than it’s about the Chicago Outfit, but some real people and events from the life of Al Capone make it into the mix. Below, we consult Deirdre Bair’s biography Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend, contemporary reporting, newsreel footage, and more to break down what’s real, what’s delusion, and what comes only from the demented minds of the filmmakers.
Al Capone (Tom Hardy)
Alphonse Capone was, as you may have heard, a real person, and although many of the events depicted in Capone are imagined, Trank’s vision of his final years has some basis in the truth. Capone led the exceptionally violent organized crime syndicate known as the Chicago Outfit from 1925 until 1931, when he was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Diagnosed with syphilis during his intake medical examinations at the federal prison in Atlanta—he probably contracted it as a teenager—Capone was given bismuth therapy, known by then to be worthless. In 1934, he was transferred to the newly opened Alcatraz Federal Prison, where doctors were appalled with the medical care he’d received in Atlanta, but his neurological condition continued to deteriorate.